Auckland remain in hunt after win
September 27, 2008
A week after surrendering the Ranfurly Shield to Wellington, the 2007 champions breathed fresh life into their campaign by repulsing a late North Harbour fightback.
The bonus-point result lifted Auckland from 10th to sixth in the standings and with one round remaining they can guarantee themselves a playoffs berth by beating lowly Northland next Sunday.
It also left North Harbour, who hit back with three tries in the last 20 minutes after being down 3-29, without any chance of making the quarterfinals after posting just two wins in nine outings
Both sides entered today's match desperate for success but Auckland were much more accurate than the home team, who committed too many mistakes to put the visitors under any sort of pressure until the last quarter.
Having scored just 13 tries in their previous eight games, Auckland rediscovered some potency today to secure an important bonus point with four tries.
They had to wait only 10 minutes for the first of them, when impressive young blindside flanker Dean Budd went over after North Harbour wing Viliame Waqaseduadua threw a wild pass into no man's land near his own 22.
Exciting winger David Smith accounted for the second after 34min when he was gifted space on the left after sharp interpassing from the Auckland loose forwards carried them into the opposition 22.
A 49m penalty into a breeze on the stroke of halftime gave Auckland a commanding 17-3 advantage at the interval when all North Harbour had to show for their efforts was a 50m penalty by captain Jimmy Gopperth.
The game was essentially made safe for Auckland shortly after the resumption when halfback Taniela Moa strolled past some weak defence from a ruck, then Budd instigated a break which saw Onosa'i Auva'a and Jamie Helleur handle the ball before lock Stan Haukinima scored to make it 29-3.
It was then that North Harbour suddenly decided to make a game of it, responding with three tries within 16 minutes to give themselves some hope.
Josh York and Nafi Tuitavake struck for North Harbour before the bar was raised for the final five minutes when substitute loose forward Tom Chamberlain was awarded a try to draw his side within striking distance at 22-29.
Chamberlain was on the spot to force the ball on the line after Jona Tuitoga crossed the line but failed to apply any downward pressure on the ball.
Auckland 29 (17) Tries: Budd, Smith Moa, Haukinima Cons: Atiga (2), Toeava Pen: Atiga
North Harbour 22 (3) Tries: York, Tuitavake, Chamberlain Cons: Gopperth (2) Pen: Gopperth